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Philosophy on Life and Death in Hamlet Essay Sample

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Philosophy on Life and Death in Hamlet Essay Sample

Philosophy on life and death is usually determined by a number of things. Religion, culture, traditions and family usually have something to do with the beliefs humans might have. During the course of a lifetime, experiences and accomplishments have a major influence on how we think as adults. During the play Hamlet, Hamlet’s philosophies on life and death change significantly, due to the recent events in his life.

In Hamlet’s first soliloquy he reveals to the reader that he wishes he could disappear from the earth. He is so discouraged by life, and the continual run of negative events that are taking place. Primarily, his father’s death has brought him anguish as well as his mother’s marriage to his Uncle Claudius. His despair has driven him to suicidal thoughts, and that he would kill himself if suicide were not a violation of canon law.

“T’is an unweeded garden

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely” (Page 12, line 141-142)

In act 1, scene 4, Hamlet speaks to Horatio and Marcellus about how the fate of your character is inevitable. A flaw in man’s character is something he can inherit, nurture or develop. Man may be born with this flaw, which makes him a victim of fate. When this occurs it absolves him of all responsibility for his behavior. Man’s behavior can be attributed to their complexion, which is determined by four bodily fluids called humors. The humors are blood, phlegm, red bile and black bile; therefore a person could have a sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric or melancholic personality depending on which humor is in excess.

“So oft it chances in particular men

That for some vicious mole of nature in them,

As in their birth, -wherein they are not guilty,

Since nature cannot choose his origin, –

By their o’ergrowth of some complexion” (Page 23, line 26-30)

Hamlet meets with his father’s ghost who has been banished to the fires of purgatory until his sins have been forgiven. His father instructs Hamlet to get revenge on his Uncle Claudius. Before Hamlet will revenge Claudius, he needs substantial proof that his uncle murdered his father because the ghost may have simply been a devil trying to lead Hamlet to damnation. Hamlet believes very much in there being a higher power and doesn’t want to be played a fool if the ghost wasn’t actually his father’s spirit.

In the 3rd Act, Hamlet reflects on the notions of suicide as a means of escape from life’s problems. He concludes that the fear of the unknown after death keeps us all living. The question “To be or not to be” is one that every man or woman ponders during great times of crisis. He wonders if it is better to respond passively to the trials and errors of life; or is it better to take action and confront your problems?

Or is it best to end all and commit suicide? He contemplates suicide as an easy solution to all of life’s problems. The only problem with it is man’s fear of the oblivion, unknown and going against the will of God. Our conscience makes cowards of us all. We all lose initiative and ambition for what we had such drive and determination all due to this over thinking and contemplation, no action is ever taken.

“To be or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them. To die: to sleep:

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, ad the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, ’tis consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To due, to sleep;” (Page 63, line64-72)

In act 3, scene 3, Hamlet sneaks up on Claudius with his sword drawn, but doesn’t murder him because he is at prayer. Hamlet believes that Claudius should die in a state of sin because Hamlet’s father was murdered before his sins could be absolved. He’s determined that hell shall be the destination for his uncle’s soul. Unfortunate for Hamlet, his uncle wasn’t in prayer at all; he simply was wishing that he had the strength to ask for forgiveness, but expects to spend eternity in hell. Therefore Hamlet passed by the most perfect opportunity for revenge.

After Hamlet realizes that his Uncle is out to get him murdered, he is outraged. As the sword fight with Laertes is planned, Hamlet begins to realize that he’s going to die. He realizes that fate is inevitable, no matter how hard you try to fight it; you cannot change what’s written in the stars for you. He learns that throughout your lifetime you make mistakes and experience situations, which teach you and prepare you for the future. He is no longer obsessed with morality and the unanswered questions that haunt him, relating to what lies beyond this life.

He now believes in some “divinity that shapes our ends”. He is willing to accept his fate, and no longer does he fight the injustices of life. He realizes that preparation is key, and that he is indeed prepared to meet his destiny. He no longer has an intense fear of death, and therefore can finally live.

Hamlet’s perspective of death changes several times throughout the course of the play. Ultimately he decides that life and death are nothing to dwell on. You have to be ready with open arms to accept all that it’s going to throw your way. Before the sword fight with Laertes and the conclusion of the play, Hamlet decides he’s ready to take whatever is in store for him. In truth, there is fate, but it only takes you so far, then the rest is up to you.

Works Cited Page

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

By William Shakespeare

Ó 1958 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Pocket books, New York, NY.

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